My No BS Guide to Having and Recovering from a C-Section

Since having a C-Section 17 months ago, I have had several friends ask me to guide them through what to expect with theirs. I realize that I wish I had know some of these things before going into my C-Section and so I have decided to share.

This is my absolutely no-bullshit guide to having and recovering from a C-Section. Now, mine was planned so the recovery from an emergent C-Section could be different. In fact the truth is each woman’s recovery will be slightly different. I wish I had someone tell me the truth about what to expect- I think it would have prepared me and made my experience a lot less scary and unknown at the time. Here it goes mamas!

Part One: The C-Section, before and after

  1. Belly bandit- wear it as soon as you feel you can. It’s the one single thing I can now swear by about healing and recovering from a C-section. Wear it as much as you can. I didn’t sleep in mine but otherwise I wore it as much as humanly possible!!! It shrunk my uterus down in 1 month to almost it’s normal state and supported my incision area and also my back. It just really holds everything in that otherwise after a C-Section can hurt as you’re tummy is all wobbly and wonky for a while.  This is the one I used. I started with size small and then eventually had to buy the XS because I shrunk so fast but still needed and wanted the support. I saved both as I plan to use them again if/when we get pregnant a second time.
  2. THIS:  Use these strips on your incision as soon as you’re allowed to. They are the most amazing things EVER! I wore them 24/7 (you can wash them when you shower- that’s the only time I wasn’t wearing them)….my scar looks SO good because of these PLUS they protect your scar from underwear, clothes, etc. which can feel pretty icky against it for a while (up to 2 months maybe more).
  3. Compression big panties: I wore these every single day and night and I wore them under the belly bandit. They also help with the swelling and really do help hold things in…They aren’t sexy but none of this is sexy (plus you can’t have sex anyway so just do all you can to get your body put back together and try not to care about what you or your big ass panties look like)! 
  4. Pooping: DO AN ENEMA BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOSPITAL! If they’ll allow you trust me this is the way to go. Have a nurse give you an enema in the hospital you will be so relieved. Take stool softeners so that you don’t get constipated with the pain meds post C-section. I had to do an enema the first poop after surgery, 3 days later…And on that- that first poop….hang on to your heart: it feels like you are ripping yourself open but you ARE NOT…just remember me telling you this- you are OK…you are not ripping yourself open and are totally okay. You have to poop and once you do it’ll only get easier to do it again. I ended up doing a few enemas post surgery until I was able to go on my own. It won’t hurt you and is the easiest way to get it done. Any pushing hurts deep inside as you’ve been sliced open and are healing.
  5. SLEEP! In order to heal fast, you have to sleep. Sleep as much as you can and let the people around you help you. The worst you can do is over-due it. You will set yourself back  not heal yourself. Tell your husband/partner this: he/she needs to be in charge of stepping up and not letting you over-due. After about 1 week the pain reduces a lot and after the 2nd week so much more  but you have to be careful not to over-due it even though you feel better because for about 6 weeks total you’re still healing and things are still fusing back together. It’s easy to push it but you have to really be on yourself not to. This is extremely tough for those of us who take care of everything and everyone but ourselves so try to use this as practice for asking for help from your support team. Remember- they WANT to help you but you may need to be specific about the kind of help you need and when you need it.
  6. Big pads- you will bleed for weeks. I wore a long heavy over-night pad 24/7. Finally switched to a regular pad at week 5 post partum. Don’t think you can just hang out after taking a shower for 15 mins- you can’t- you’ll bleed. Pad it up!
  7. Make sure to eat high protein as it helps you heal fast.
  8. You may come home swollen from the fluids they pump into you but not to fear- it will go away (you’ll pee it out) with in about 1.5-2.5 weeks or so. I think drinking lots of water/coconut water helps flush and drain it out. You need lots of water anyway to support nursing. It can be scary to see yourself looking so puffy after you get home from the hospital but I promise the swelling goes away and you’ll be able to see what you really look like post baby in about 1.5-3 weeks.
  9. NIGHT TIME HELP: This is KEY! If you can get a night time nurse or Doula (we had a Doula and it saved us) do it! If you can do it for 2 weeks at minimum but ideally would be 1 month. I can’t stress enough how much this helps. It allows you to sleep a little with out worry. Someone skilled and trained is up with your baby or up watching your sleeping baby. They will come get you out of bed to nurse when you are needed (usually every 2-3 hours in the beginning). If you do not sleep, you will not heal and also your milk supply will suffer. You have to sleep. So someone you can rest easy with should be with you at night. This isn’t your mom and it’s not your husband. This really is someone much more skilled to actually do just this. If that person is with your baby trust me you WILL sleep and you will be a better new mommy for it. The reason it’s not your mom or partner is because you still need those people’s support during the day while you heal. You can’t lift anything for a while and barely that sweet new baby so try to set this up BEFORE you have your baby (if you know you’re having a C-Section). If this isn’t an option for you financially or perhaps because you don’t live near family then you need to set a very real schedule with your partner for them to support you in being able to sleep (and then stick to it).
  10. Pain: people do NOT talk about how painful it is to recover from a C-section. I will be honest it’s SO painful. So just know this and it’ll help you not worry that something is wrong. Also, the healing itself can feel very weird. The area of the incision ends up this weird combo of numb and painful to touch. It changes and you may feel some weird tinges of pain (healing pains) on and off. Don’t let them scare you- just expect them. The body is amazing…almost 5 months postpartum my scar wasn’t even close to as wide or scary as it was at even month 2 or 3 and my tummy was back to normal. When you’re freaking about stuff- just don’t. Know that you’ll get back to feeling like yourself and instead focus all your energy on loving your baby because that will take your mind off anything uncomfortable that’s going on (and make it all worth it).

Part Two: Your tummy, your healing

  1.  Tummy Time: One of the hardest things post C-Section is getting the tummy muscles to fuse back into place and start working the way they used to. This is just a game of patience but there are things you can do to help. The Belly Bandit as mentioned above is a must. On top of this I suggest trying to do all things you do being mindful of your core. After you have a baby and while you’re in recovery there’s not much time for working out (plus you aren’t allowed to do much but take walks for a while). So use the walks and even lifting the baby or doing the dishes or laundry as your work outs. Tighten and use your core muscles (which may feel very weird for a while) as your power zone. Do all movements from this power zone (not your butt or your legs). Soon you will just use your core as a habit and you won’t have to think about it all the time. Most important take walks and as you feel better and better take longer, faster walks using your core as the movement force and power zone. The weight will start to fall off. Oh and wear your belly wrap on your walk and as much as you can! Eventually you can start to get back into your normal work outs. I recommend pilates with a trained instructor for good post C-Section healing. Make sure to always tell the instructor you just had a C-Section!
  2. What you eat: In my experience the MOST important component to healing and getting your body to slim down after a baby is what you eat. In the beginning you have to make food choices to support your nursing (if you choose to do this). That means you must eat. This is one of the hardest things to do with a newborn and a C-Section recovery. It might sound nuts but it’s true. First of all, stuff happens like you could have a baby who can’t latch (like we did) and then you end up pumping 8-12x a day. Between the pain of getting in and out of bed or walking around post C-Section and then need to pump then feed the baby I swear I barely had a moment to do one more thing. This is where HELP comes in. My mom was in town to help support us after the baby came and ended up staying longer once we had some postpartum feeding issues and difficulty. She would actually feed me while I was pumping AND also trying to breast feed. If she wasn’t there spoon feeding ME I swear I wouldn’t have been able to eat much in those first couple weeks. If you’re partner is around then they can be this person (my husband wasn’t able to take time off right after the baby was born and had a crazy schedule in fellowship and being on call at the time).
  3. More on what to eat:
    1. High protein (note: eggs are the best fast food while nursing and healing), probiotic yogurt is also really good for you but use full fat if nursing.
    2. Lots of easy greens (kale, spinach, asparagus)
    3. Good fats: Avocado, coconut Milk, coconut oil, olive oil
    4. Fiber: You may be having post C-Section “issues” as I call them and will need extra fiber to help support you. Try lentils, hummus, dates, figs, prunes, apples, pears mixed into your diet to assist your needs.
    5. Good healthy carbs: Try quinoa, brown rice, chickpea flour based pasta, sweet potato or yams but try not to overdo it on the carbs.
    6. Nursing support: Try to eat your carbs in the morning in the form of oatmeal or gluten-free oatmeal. This will help your milk supply but also give you fiber and carbs for the day (add dates, figs, pears, apples here for more fiber support).
    7. Water water water! Drink water all day. If you’re not a water person then add cucumber, lemon, berries, orange slices, etc. to water in a container in the fridge and let it marinate. It’ll be tastier and also add some good things to your diet at the same time.
    8. What you eat after nursing and in order to get your body back to a good space:
      1. Greens! Greens and veggies oh my! Okay so the skinny is this: eat as many greens and veggies as you want! That’s right- you get a free pass on this one. You can fill up on greens and veggies at each meal!
      2. Small amounts of protein you don’t need as much as you think! If you make a fist the amount a protein you actually need per meal is in fact probably 1/2 of that size. So, if you’re doing a lean meat or fish try to portion it out with that in mind. If you’re having a vegetarian meal then the protein may be in the form of lentils or beans of some sort (I do this more than anything else protein wise). I say 1/2 a cup of beans is the portion size per meal depending on the size of the bean…then it may end up being 1 cup.
      3. Eat whole unprocessed foods. Instead of the low or non-fat item (which is filled with carbs and sugar and “filler” opt for something real and whole (and then eat slightly less of it). For example…choose whole organic yogurt, choose a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of sea salt on your salad instead of “fat-free dressing.” Your body will process these things so much better and you will actually be thinner for making these choices.
      4. Cook your own food. If you make your own food then you can control what’s in it. Going out or ordering in here and there is fine but if you can, try to control what REALLY goes into your mouth. I find it helps to make dishes once or twice a week that you can keep in your fridge and grab as needed such as: hummus and organic veggies to dip into it or grab and snack on, Israeli salad (or salads in general), salmon or lean meats to have and grab.
      5. Do not starve yourself. The worst thing you can do when trying to shed baby weight (or any weight) is to starve yourself. You MUST eat. Just eat less and make healthy choices.
      6. Splurging is okay. It’s important to be kind and moderate when on the long road to loosing your baby weight. The reality is you’re going to have days where you want to splurge or you’re out and you want to eat something you have been craving for ages. Eat it. Enjoy it then let it go. Start the next day back on track and don’t sweat it. The reality is that even one splurge meal or even one day a week will not derail your weight loss if you are making healthy choices (most of the time).

A Room For Her To Dream In…

1We’re having our baby in 12 days! Her room is ready and we can’t wait to bring her home to this peaceful space where she’ll get to dream until next summer (when we’ll be moving on to our next adventure as a family)! Here’s a peak at our little girl’s nursery! There’s no specific theme but there are a lot of butterflies around. The large pieces such as the crib, the dresser, nursing chair and ottoman, rug, changing table dresser, are all white, cream or light wood. I thought this made sense so they can all be used again because they are gender neutral. So, if we have a boy next then we’ll only need to add accents to the nursery set up and can re-use everything else. Since we’re having a little girl now, I chose accents in soft pinks, yellows, greens, beige, some purples and greens, blues too. The main accent color being soft shades of pink but they’re very much accents and not over powering it all. The room in the sunshine feels very bright, light and calm. The whites and creams pop out and it’s very serene. 
2In the darker hours the room gives off a candle light color and glow. It’s all exactly how I envisioned it. I’m so excited to get to rock her in this chair and put her down to sleep in this crib under her butterfly dream catchers with crystals and feathers softly floating above her. Here’s wishing for sweet dreams baby!

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Dresser, hamper, basket of stuffed animals, a couple books, a bird night light and a painting of me, pregnant as a butterfly by my friend Kim McBride. The butterflies around me in the painting were finger-painted by my female friends and family who came to my Mother’s Blessing party to wish me well on my journey into motherhood.

What’s in these drawers…..
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The changing table all set with the basic needs for the first little while. I’ve chosen to try the Honest Company’s diaper and wipes bundle. They deliver it to your door and in my research, it’s the safest for sensitive baby skin brand out there that’s also affordable. We’re stocked up on the newborn size and we’re going to give it a try and see if it works for her! Other items include Angel Baby Bottom Balm, Coconut Oil (I plan on using this for her “lotion” in her massages and will probably use on her tushy too- safest option in my opinion). For bath time we’re going to try California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Bodywash.

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The nursing chair and ottoman is the best! Land of Nod has the best chair options out there. It’s going to be such a dream rocking our baby in this chair, nursing her next to my little bunny light. I can’t wait to fill this little picture frame with our baby’s face! It’s waiting and ready. A little Hamsa hangs next to my nursing chair with a beautiful Hebrew prayer for a baby girl. I wear one around my neck and it’s my gift to my baby girl’s room…a little something from her mom to protect her in spirit.

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12 11 I love our crib and sheets/changing pad/towel sets by Dwell Studio.5And finally…a little peak at this (mostly pink) closet! Thanks to our dear friends and family for all of this! We’re so touched and blessed by your generosity- these gifts and hand-me-downs are just the sweetest and I can’t wait to see her in all of them! It’s going to be so much fun dressing her up!  On top of the closet we have a stack of swaddle sacks, swaddle and receiving blankets as well as a stack of burp cloths and heavier blankets for when fall/winter comes our way. I pre-washed EVERYTHING you see in this entire room in Honest detergent or Seventh Generation detergent.

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All set…now all we need is our baby! 🙂

 

Bring On The Stretching But Not The Stretch Marks!

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I’ve been asked many times what I’m doing to protect against stretch marks. Well first of all we should all understand that there’s only so much you can do to protect your skin from getting stretch marks because much of this will depend on your genetics. Chances are if your mom got them you might be prone to them too. That said there is no reason not to try with all your might to avoid them. One of the things that will most certainly help is not to gain too much weight too fast. It’s important to have a steady weight gain while pregnant and that will not only be healthy for you and baby but also it will allow your skin to stretch slowly. Other than that all I can say is lube it up!!! (Not that kind of lube)!

Here’s what I’m obsessed with and using diligently every day!

#1 Coconut Oil

If you’re like me and have sensitive skin you will love coconut oil. It’s SO calming to the skin, feels luxurious going on and lasts the whole day or night. I also put some in my hair before bed too as a conditioning treatment if I’m going to wash my hair in the morning. I’m loving the coconut oil from head to toe! Note #1: When you’re rubbing it on your body, make sure to really take your time with it and even it out everywhere. Get all the areas you can think of- it’s totally safe for the entire body. My husband always comments on how amazing I smell after I’ve had my coconut oil moment. Note #2: For sensitive/painful nipples this works wonders and my friends who are nursing tell me this is so helpful on nipples when nursing so I’m happy to share that with you although I’m not there yet! Soon enough!

The benefits of coconut oil go on and on it’s good for your insides and your outsides. I have some in the kitchen to cook with and some that’s in the bathroom for my moments of massaging my growing baby belly and body. Ladies, it’s nice to use that time to talk to your baby, embrace your new body and all the changes happening to you. Let go of any stress or concerns you’re feeling. Use the massage time to focus on loving yourself and that beautiful baby you’re growing inside. Lately when I do this, I can feel her flutter around and it’s just the most amazing thing. They respond to touch, sound and love even now.

#2 Mama Mio Tummy Rub Stretch Mark Butter

I did a ton of research when I found out I was pregnant to figure out which cream or lotion or potion I should use to avoid stretch marks. This is something I decided to start a regular daily regime with right away and before my belly even started to grow. Clearly I’m taking this quite seriously. I also realize that despite my efforts, I might get stretch marks anyway and if I do- I will embrace them because I got them from making our child inside my body. Buuuuuut….I’m doing all I can do avoid. So, Mama Mio Tummy Rub by far got the best reviews out there. I’ve been using it this entire time and I do just love it. As you can see with #1 I am using coconut oil as well. So what I do is I use the coconut oil all over and the Mama Mio Tummy Rub only around my belly and hips. It feels and smells wonderful and I plan to continue this all the way through and then when I’m on the other side and trying to get my body back.

#3 Mama Mio Tummy Rub Stretch Mark Oil

This oil is awesome but it also feels a bit more like oil than let’s say, the coconut oil I’m using. So, I have used this sparingly and only when I feel my skin is itchy (which will happen as your skin is stretching) or dry. I have a feeling as I start to stretch more and grow more I will add this oil into the mix even more and probably only on “problem areas” such as oh let’s see….my belly! Oh shoot I can’t call that area a “problem!” You know what I mean!

The bottom line on avoiding stretch marks is to try your best but also embrace reality. If you get them, you get them and you can wear em’ like a badge of mama honor and love them when you look at the smiling face of the baby you carried. Also, if you’re like me and you love being naked a little coconut and tummy rub secret- it makes your body look quite stunning right after massage time. And hey- if I do get stretch marks I’ll still dance around and want to enjoy being naked with those puppies on my body. I’ll be a mom and that’s frickin’ sexy! Own it ladies! Use these moments to love and embrace what’s going on. It’s beautiful, it’s a miracle and it can be sexy as hell if you let it be baby.